Apropos, I think, of my recent visit to the McMichael gallery, where I wrote about Diana Thorneycroft's truly excellent bit of Canadian cultural iconoclasm, the Group of Seven Awkward Moments, I was interested to learn of an exhibition of work by Natalie Laluque at Whitby's Station Gallery, called The Canadiana Project, via an ever-reliable source, the View on Canadian Art blog.
Thorneycroft, of course, applies her acid wit and eye for the signifiers of our culture, both sacred and profane -- that would be the work of the Group of 7
and such lesser, but no less well-known, lights, Bob and Doug Mackenzie
(at left) -- and combines them in a seductive pastiche that, I think, serves as both send-up and engagingly clear lens through which to view our sometimes-stuffy national identity.
For Laluque, who emigrated from the Ukraine in 2003, the view on such signifiers is through a much longer lens -- a foreign eye that regards our sometimes-mixmaster self-image as both funny, and problematic.
To this, she offers a suite of paintings with a set of juxtaposed icons her eye captured, in the swirl of newness that confronted her: In Known and Unknown Heroes of Canada (above) Montreal Canadiens great Howie Morenz and the Leafs Charlie Conacher pose alongside ghostly painted images of Chinese railway workers; in Tastes Canadian (below), lunching office workers munch on fast food while a bloodied walrus is dragged from an airhole by Inuit hunters.
Like Thorneycroft, Laluque's questing after Canadian iconogrpahy is elusive, indeed. But sometimes it takes an outsider to let us see ourselves more fully, and Laluque has certainly done that. Until Sept. 6 at Station Gallery.